Growing up in the boondocks has its advantages.
From my second floor bedroom window, I can vividly
remember seeing the Moon-lit rural Indiana countryside
stretching for many miles in the distance. On hot
humid August evenings I would feast on the visual
smorgasbord of the summer Milky Way stretching from
horizon to horizon. For as far back as I can remember,
I've always had a fascination with the sky. This
interest almost certainly arose from the environment
that I was privileged to grow up in. To this very
day, the country near Grass Creek, Indiana is still
relatively dark, although the ominous glow of Chicago,
120 miles distant, is visible on the northwestern
horizon. Unlike cities where the visual environment
is consumed in manmade constructs, the flat country
landscape affords unavoidable, and many times, spectacular
views of the sky, especially at night. Thus it was
inevitable that things up there piqued my interest.
I did not actually look through a telescope until
age 11 when my dad purchased a Kmart Focal 40 mm
refractor, which I was allowed to use on occasion.
Though by today's standards, a 40 mm aperture telescope
is small, to me it was a magical instrument. By
saving up money from a summer job, I purchased my
first big telescope, an 8" Newtonian, which I still
use today. Since then I have built several telescopes
including a computer-controlled 12.5" Newtonian.
There's nothing like the thrill of "first light"
with a telescope that you built with your own hands.
After graduating from Lewis
Cass High School in Walton, Indiana, I went
on to obtain a B.S. in Astrophysics from Indiana
University. After a short stint as an auto mechanic
at a local Sears store, I went on to become a programmer/analyst
at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore,
MD. Once there it became apparent that the sky I
remembered back in the country no longer existed.
This motivated me to volunteer as a web master for
the International Dark-Sky Association to help save
the awesome night vistas for others - among them
my wife Jackie and sons Michael and Alex.